Miguel Batista is the epitome of the well-traveled big-leaguer. In a Major League career that dates back as far as 1992, the 36-year-old right-hander has played with Pittsburgh, Florida, the Chicago Cubs, Montreal, Kansas City, Arizona (twice), Toronto and now Seattle.
But in that grand tour, the most passion Batista developed for his surrounding digs came in the Sonoran desert around Phoenix. Descended from Carib Indians centuries ago in the Dominican Republic, Batista became the first player to build a baseball field on tribal land, committing $50,000 of his own money.
Batista had heard ancient tales in his family of Indians in the Caribbean before Columbus' time. But he had never met any Native Americans until his first tour with the Diamondbacks in 2001.
"When I saw them, it brought up all the memories of my family of how it used to be," Batista said. "I wanted to get to know them. I had a very good relationship with some.
"I visited a Navajo reservation. A close friend among them taught me how to play the native flute. They're great baseball fans."
Batista started out desiring to promote baseball among Native Americans.
"It's a shame to know that there were no [Major League] Baseball players from reservations," he said. "Baseball would have so much benefit to those people. There should be more players aspiring."
With help from the Diamondbacks, Batista helped open the baseball field on August 5, 2003 in Sacaton, Ariz.
"We were supposed to do another one in the Grand Canyon," he said. "That would have been milestone for Major League Baseball as the first field in one of the Wonders of the World."
Batista continues to befriend Native Americans, as he visits tribes and sleeps in their housing.
"We're trying to build a library on the reservation, and get supplies for kids," he said. "We've dedicated time and effort. We want to inspire some of the youths to try harder.
"What they need is more spiritual and emotional guidance. Indian reservations have one of biggest percentage of suicides. They just need to be motivated. When I went to talk to some of the kids, you have to motivate the oldest so they can help younger kids.
"It's a very controversial thing for us to do. There's a lot of work to do. I hope we can get some more athletes from other sports to knock on doors, to try harder. I'll do this as long as I can."
Batista is something of a renaissance man. He spent five years writing his first published novel, "The Avenger of Blood." He is the first Latin player to ever publish a book of poetry.
The Sporting News honored Batista as the "No. 1 Good Guy" in Major League Baseball for his contributions. He has one abiding philosophy:
"A helping hand is the duty of every human being."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.